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Critical Considerations When Comparing Small Business Phone Systems

Christine O'Kelly
Jun 2, 2008
Selecting the appropriate small business phone system can significantly increase a company's productivity as well as reduce the cost of doing business. It's important to have a solid understanding of small business phone systems in order to avoid paying too much or selecting a system that does not have the capacity to grow with your business. This article will review the options that are available and the issues you need to consider.

Though it may seem like a simple decision, choosing the right small business phone system can help or hinder your business's productivity and professional appearance. When deciding on a PBX phone system, there are several things you'll want to consider.

- How many employees require a separate extension and will the employees benefit from having voicemail?

- Will employees need to utilize a mobile system during the times when they are out of the office?

- Will the company be adding employees? Selecting a modular system for a growing company is vital. A low price, simple small business phone system won't be able to expand with the company.

- Do employees work in remote locations? A telephone system with a call routing feature is ideal for companies that have employees working outside of the office.

Some of the basic features included with a small business phone system include:

- Auto attendant
- Remote voicemail pickup
- Multiple extensions
- Call Forwarding
- Call Waiting
- Call Holding
- Voice Mail
- Speakerphone
- Speed dial
- Faxing capacity

Extra Features

Small business phone systems that offer additional features can greatly increase the productivity of an office. Not only are these cutting edge features designed to improve efficiency and professionalism, but they work to ensure that calls don't fall through the cracks. It only takes one missed call to lose out a large order or miss a profitable lead. Some of the additional features available in today's small business phone systems include:

- A call recording feature that saves phone conversations to a hard drive.
- An audio recording function emails the recording as an attachment.
- Voice to E-mail allows employees to be notified by email of new voice mail messages.
- Auto-fax detection automatically transfers faxes, thus eliminating the need for a separate fax line.

Types of Small Business Phone Systems

Today's small businesses have many different options in terms of small business phone systems and how they will handle their calls:

PBX (Private Branch Exchange)

PBX systems have the capacity to route calls between co-workers as well as to outside lines. This makes it preferable to a standard VOIP system. Some PBX systems utilize VOIP technology meaning reduced costs on long distance charges.

VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

VOIP has fast become a favorite choice among business owners since long distance charges are eliminated as the call is routed via high speed internet, bypassing the telephone company's copper wires. The trouble with purely VOIP phone systems is that if the internet goes down, then so does your phone system.

Hybrid PBX Systems

Hybrid PBX systems utilize both the telephone company's copper wires to connect calls and VOIP - whichever is cheaper and available. The greatest asset of hybrid PBX systems is that if for any reason VOIP capabilities are unavailable, the phone system can still make and take calls via copper wire.

Virtual PBX

A Virtual PBX can be an effective for small, single offices that don't make or take many calls. They essentially combine an auto-attendant PBX system with VOIP telephone lines. The greatest downside to the virtual PBX is that you end up paying much more over the long-run for the service than if you would have purchased an in-house small business phone system. Virtual PBX companies will charge per minute for the VOIP connection whereas if the phone system was in-house, you would pay little to nothing for calls.

When selecting a small business phone system, look for versatility and a system filled with options that can save time and increase productivity. Price is important, but ask vendors if essential services such as installation, customizing the small business phone system, technical support and training are included with the purchase. These small business phone systems can be complicated to set up without expertise and you won't want to pay extra for these necessary services.
About the Author
Christine O'Kelly is an Author for Best Deal Allworx, a leading provider of Allworx small business phone systems. Allworx is a feature-rich small business phone system designed specifically for small to mid-sized businesses.
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